The No. 3 Texas Longhorns had another amazing pull-away victory with their 40-14 triumph over the then-No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks last week. This week, they head to Dallas, along with College GameDay, to face the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooner in the final Red River Rivalry game as part of the Big 12. The media always ramps up the classic rivalry game, but the hype is even more tremendous this year. Texas and Oklahoma are both undefeated going into the showdown for the first time since 2011 when the Sooners were ranked third and the Horns were 11th. There is a plethora of information I am yearning to display, all with the caveat that the discrepancy in strength of schedule is drastic. I did my best to narrow down the graphs, but I couldn’t help myself.
Before I start rambling, context is everything. Below are the Week 6 AP Ranked teams, their opponent W-L record on the season (FCS also included), and the details for how teams performed against ranked opponents.
Texas, Washington State, and Ole Miss are the only teams that have two ranked wins thus far. Oklahoma has yet to play a ranked opponent. In addition, I loved seeing the Sooner fans on Twitter (I refuse to call it X) attempt to make a point that Texas has only played backup quarterbacks this season. Below is a comparison of quarterbacks faced so far, just based on passer rating. The first column is their season average, and the second is their performance against Texas or OU.
At a glance, the quarterbacks faced this season look about even between the two teams. I will also mention that the average passer rating for a college quarterback this season is 135.4 and the top quartile of quarterbacks would have one above 149.65. Do with that information what you will.
We have been holding onto the edge of our seats during the first half of some of these games before Texas explodes in the second half and more intensively in the fourth quarter. Compared to the past two seasons where we seemed to excel in the first half and dragged in the third quarter, I will gladly take the victories where we can get them. Sarkisian mentioned that having a deeper rotation on defense has been a big part of this change. Oklahoma has also experienced a massive turnaround in production in Brent Venables’ second year. Below is a quarter-by-quarter net point differential graph for Texas and Oklahoma in this season and the last. The numbers outside of the bars are the time of possession (in percentage) for the quarter.
You will notice that while Texas might have taken the smallest step back in the second quarter, they have ramped up their presence and control in the fourth. Oklahoma has gotten out to crazy starts so far this season, but nevertheless against some weaker opponents.
Meanwhile, Texas saw some trouble again converting scores in the red zone. Last week, I expanded on defensive red-zone stop rate, in which Kansas was ranked the lowest coming into the game. Oklahoma has had an impressive stop rate already at 25 percent, not allowing a rushing touchdown yet inside the red zone.
Games are often won and lost in the trenches, and both sides for the Longhorns have developed well during Sark’s tenure. Before Alabama, I compared the offensive line yards in seasons past. A quick reminder line yards per rush are yards gained or lost within five yards of the line of scrimmage. To better understand how each side of the ball has fared this season, I constructed a graph breaking down line yards by how much Texas “pushed” its opponent.
The beginning of the arrow is what each opponent produced or allowed on the season so far. The end of the arrow indicates the data point of how they performed when playing Texas. For instance, when other teams play Rice, they average 2.9 yards on offense, and limit 2.6 yards on defense. The Longhorns offensive line pushed to 3.4 yards per rush and the defense enforced a solid 1.8 yards per rush. Ideally, arrows moving to the bottom and the right indicate our lines are tougher than what they usually face, and the larger the arrow would demonstrate a bigger surprise to that opponent. You will notice that Texas has caused that to happen in every game with the exception being the offensive line being weaker in the run game against Alabama.
While on the topic of defensive lines being a force, I wanted to take a second to call out the talents that have aided the Horns in this endeavor. Win Rate is a useful metric as it simply measures how often a defensive player wins their matchup. Due to quarterbacks getting the ball out at different speeds, sometimes pressures isn’t always the best stat to evaluate if the defensive line is effectively doing their job. T’Vondre Sweat is the highest graded interior defensive lineman this season and ranks fourth in win rate. Ethan Burke and Anthony Hill Jr. also rank amongst the top 10 percent in win rate at their respective positions. I also included pressure percentage (PRP) just for comparison which tallies sacks, hits, and hurries over the total number of times when rushing the passer. (Note: I only included players who have played in at least 20 percent of pass-rush snaps for the season.)
Below, I constructed the same line yards graph, but for Oklahoma’s schedule.
For the Sooners, their 73-0 victory against Arkansas State was the only instance in which both offensive and defensive lines performed over expected. In every other game, their offensive line has slightly disappointed. In the Iowa State game, their defensive line was also pushed back from a Cyclones offense that ranks dead last in the conference in running the ball. This is a beacon of hope for the Texas run game behind Jonathon Brooks who had an outstanding 218 yard game against the Jayhawks this past weekend.
For the Sooners, defensive tackle Jonah Laulu (8 tackles, 1 sack) is the third best interior lineman in the conference behind T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II. Edge rushers Trace Ford (6, 0), Ethan Downs (14, 1.5), and Adepoju Adebawore (5, 1.5) are all decent threats as well. Will linebacker Danny Stutsman (49, 2) ranks seventh in run stopping amongst all defensive players in the nation. This begs the question on whether these grades are highly influenced by the non-conference games OU played and if they are slipping against power 5 opponents, especially allowing 5.6 yards per rush against Iowa State.
Safeties Billy Bowman Jr (12, 0) and Peyton Bowen (18, 0) also play a major role in stopping the run. Bowman, along with safety Key Lawrence and cornerback Gentry Williams each have two interceptions on the season. Lawrence can be hit or miss in games, but had a great showing against Cincinnati. In coverage, corners Kani Walker and Gentry Williams will be tough competition though performing slightly better in zone versus man. Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy have proven to be a tough tandem to prepare against.
Last weekend, Texas loved running the ball between the center Jake Majors, and either left guard Hayden Conner or right guard DJ Campbell. Brooks also found tremendous success within these gaps, with one leading to a 54-yard touchdown. CJ Baxter continues to get carries in each game and scored his first collegiate touchdown. Below are the full running splits for both backs from the last game. (A brief explanation for understanding — ML indicates a run between the center and the left guard, LG means between the left guard and left tackle, LT means off the left tackle, and LE means off a tight end lined up on the left.)
Oklahoma runs the ball 53.1 percent of the time (Texas is at 54.1 percent for reference) and they have utilized a wide arsenal of backs so far this season. Below is a similar graph for how their rushing game breaks down with Dillon Gabriel starting under center.
Oklahoma’s favorite run plan is the left end with a total of 31 runs, averaging 3.4 yards per carry in that direction. Their most efficient is between the left guard Savion Byrd and left tackle Walter Rouse, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, apart from Gabriel’s eight scrambles for 60 yards. Their tackle duo of Byrd and Tyler Guyton ranks second only to Texas in run blocking grades for tackle duos in the conference. You will also notice that Gabriel is utilized in designed runs on the ends as well, so Texas will look to Burke, Finkley and Sorrell to seal the edges.
Looking at the entire offense, below are the PPA and usage metrics along with box score stats on the season as usual.
Expect Marcus Major be in the backfield for the majority of snaps as the bellcow for the Sooners. The 6’0, 220-pound redshirt senior is more effective in the short down game, with only one rushing touchdown so far and his longest runs in each game all being under 20 yards.
Jovantae Barnes was the second-leading rusher for Oklahoma last season but did not see playing time against Cincy or Iowa State due to lingering effects from a foot surgery. If Barnes is out again, look to Tawee Walker over Gavin Sawchuck to supplement snaps as Walker is used more frequently in the passing game as well.
Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony lines up as the X receiver, frequently catching passes over the middle or the left side of the field. He has caught all seven passes thrown in his direction in the outside left region in the 0-10 yard range, his highest targeted area. He is 22/27 total with two of his missed catches coming from the outside left in the 20-plus yard range. With Texas cornerback Ryan Watts being questionable, Anthony poses a serious threat in the deep game versus Longhorn safeties Jerrin Thompson and Jalen Catalon.
Slot receiver Drake Stoops will be appearing in his fifth Red River battle and he tends to catch his passes over the middle in the 0-10 yard range, hauling in 7-of-10 targets. He has also caught 3-of-4 targets in the middle at the 10-20 yard range, with one of those leading to a touchdown. The last major receiver to watch out for is Jalil Farooq, who often records his catches behind the line of scrimmage as he is highly agile with the ball in his hands.
The last topic of discussion for the OU offense is of course quarterback Dillon Gabriel. He is the highest-graded passer in the conference when kept clean, but ranks seventh when under pressure. He has also been kept clean the most in the conference second only to Ewers so the Texas defense will surely make him uncomfortable. On the other hand, Gabriel is also the quickest at getting the ball out of his hands, surpassing Ewers with an astonishing 2.38 seconds which is also ninth-fastest in the nation.
OU utilizes play action a wildly high 57.8% percent of the time (Texas is second in the conference at 49.4 percent), in which Gabriel has a 70-percent completion rate, 10 touchdowns, and two interceptions. In standard drop backs his completion rate rises to a staggering 80.6 percent, another metric that leads the conference, and ranks third in the nation behind just Graham Mertz of Florida and Bo Nix from Oregon. OU also ranks the highest in screen usage in the conference with 25.4 percent, but ranks the lowest in production efficiency from their screens.
While there is a lot of discussion around Oklahoma’s very weak schedule, their performance relative to the caliber of their opponents shouldn’t be overlooked. There is no denying the way in which they blew out some of these teams. But Texas is a completely different ball game, especially in the run game. Best-case scenario, the Longhorns make a dent and then some in the Sooners’ front seven that has impeded most offenses. (It’s almost like an unstoppable force meeting barely-moveable object). It will be up to the immeasurable, the talent, the grit, the scheme, for the Sooners to compete in this game. Texas shouldn’t be waltzing in either as the lack of production in the first half may be insurmountable against a higher rated team. The Texas secondary will most definitely be tested against the best quarterback they have faced this season and blown coverages and go routes won’t be redeemable. DraftKings currently has the Longhorns favored by 6.5 points.